by JOAN ANNSFIRE
Life was a party I crashed clumsily,
a voyeur, a wallflower,
standing on the sidelines of weddings, births,
nearly everything that binds the social fabric.
A shy stranger in a room
full of other people’s friends,
my little plate of gender rolls
dipped in the bitter sauce of obligation;
small, wilted canapés on a tarnished platter.
I arrived with little more than my youth,
fleeing my shabby kitchen
that came alive at night,
its counters and floors awash in roaches;
it was there I prepared dinner
and plotted revolution.
Pesky relatives claimed a husband
could pull me out of squalor
but, to me, their stories were but cautionary tales,
peppered with maybes and should-have-beens.
They swore I would rue the day
I walked out of their party
yet, I still savor the moment I opened
that fated door.
Beyond it lay an outcast’s world;
mountains of treasure scattered
in bright and jumbled piles,
a veritable carnival of disorder.
I heard a circus-song of odd harmonies
a merry-go-round of alternatives,
striking every chord in my imagination,
resounding, vibrating, seducing
with wild and discordant song.
As I listened every hair rose up
and stood at attention.
I found myself dancing.
Joan Annsfire is a librarian, a writer and a long time political activist who lives in Berkeley California. Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction pieces have appeared in various literary magazines, anthologies and web sites including previously in Poet’s Basement on Counterpunch. In her blog, lavenderjoan: http://www.lavenderjoan.blogspot.com/ the personal meets the political.
by LINDA DIVER
In curve of rock and driftwood
I shift under sun-sleeked skin
A rush of dragonflies shimmers blue
while metallic birds with cluster loads
across oyster-shell skies
In the stealth of dwindling light
leaves turn to bruised purple
embroider the dying haze.
A heron, gun-metal grey
folds orange stilts & retreats
camouflaged by shadows
Grass bends exhausted
Beneath the gathering dew.
Cobwebs stretch like nerves.
Images ghost-walk behind my eyes.
In ravaged countries
the broken & besieged
A tongue of wind
breaks the connection
Relief carries me
I climb the home-hill
to amber-spilling light.
(Previously Published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine)
Linda Diver’s work has appeared in several publications including two Paragon Collections, Minus Tides and Bread ‘n Molasses. When not writing, she studies music and takes a keen interest in geopolitics.
Elegy for Francis
by BOB SOMMER
(On the first anniversary of his death, February 11, 2012)
In the tangle of cottonwoods along the stream,
I discover, after standing a moment to watch,
the subtle movement of quiet life within the nettled branches,
barren now in February, the month when you were lost.
Nothing is right with this scene.
February should be cold, but it’s not.
A tepid chill, as if winter could not
make up its mind to be cold, as if
it got lost among the wars and disasters
that are now the season of our lives.
A year with neither flow nor rhythm―
we laughed without joy and wept in sorrow so deep
it altered our very nature, transformed us
into new and unfamiliar beings, strangers to ourselves,
like winter, which is no longer itself,
changed forever from the season we knew,
into a volatile thing, frightening in its mildness,
harsh & oppressive when it is cold.
One could pass the gray cottonwood grove in full stride
& never notice the dark-eyed juncos and
black-capped chickadees flitting among the branches,
or the rustle of squirrels and rabbits in the dry leaves,
but they’re there, sometimes gone before
I spot the place they were, so well do they blend into
the impenetrable jumble of boughs and branches,
As you are, some days, when the flash of your
silhouette appears across a room or in a passing car,
and my pulse quickens & I shudder
with a terrifying rush of hope
that dissolves before it becomes itself, the thing it is,
like winter, which is here but not here,
present, yet absent. This is how we suffer,
in the presence of your absence, the winter that isn’t winter,
for what will spring be without ice and snow,
without deep and lasting cold to preserve the life that must sleep,
or signal to others, those bluebirds and finches I’ve seen,
that they don’t belong here now and should be gone?
Farther on, along the path, the glare
from the pond as the sun rises
is nearly blinding. A gaggle of geese glides
over unfrozen water, which ripples in countless
starry flashes of light—false light
that should reflect from crystalline snow and gray ice―
so the geese appear in silhouette too,
cardboard cutouts of themselves. (Why are they still here?)
I’d like to tell you how the shimmering light
and graceful motion of geese on the water
offer the promise of hope, of a new beginning,
or maybe inspire a serene spiritual image
to lift my mood and liven my step;
oh, but that’s too maudlin for you, too sentimental;
too laden with the phony glow of a Hallmark movie―
soul-candy, I’d call it. You’d like that.
No, your ‘spirit’ inhabits us in surer ways,
in memories we keep, stories we tell;
in the new people we’ve become
by knowing you in this new way.
We keep you with us as the cottonwood grove
keeps the quiet life within, the rustlings
and flittings, the persistent flow of change,
as seasons change, not from one to another,
but each within themselves.
You taught me to hear the earth breathe,
and so it does, & so do we, with you
to sustain us as life persists. Through us
you live; as we breathe so do you, quietly,
as you inhabit this strange and awful
winter of our lives.
Bob Sommer is the author of Where the Wind Blew. He blogs at http://uncommon-hours.blogspot.com/.
Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at email@example.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”). Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).
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